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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Hunting Coyotes with rifles, shotguns in KY is open year-round with no bag limit

(Photo from KDFWR)

It’s just been in the past 50 years that the coyote (Canis latrans) become established east of the Mississippi River.

Coyotes spread their range eastward from the Great Plains and Mountain West, filling the ecological niche of the gray wolf and red wolf, native species that no long exist here.

Researchers believe the migration of coyotes into the southeastern U.S. began in the 1950s, with coyotes moving into Kentucky, from states to the north and west, in the 1970s.

Coyotes are very adaptable and are found in a wide range of habitats. They are present in all 120 Kentucky counties, with higher concentrations of furbearers in agricultural areas. Kentucky coyotes are living and reproduce in rural woods and farm fields, as well as brushy areas, woodlots and parks in the suburban outskirts of major cities.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

Year-round Hunting Season

Coyotes may be hunted year-round, day or night, with no bag limit in Kentucky.

Both mouth calls and electronic calls that imitate wounded prey, coyote barks or challenge howls, are legal. Coyotes may also be taken over decoys, bait or animal carcasses.

Coyotes are wary and difficult to hunt, especially up close, because of their excellent vision, hearing and sense of smell. Buddy hunting is a good approach, when hunting with either rifles or shotguns, positioning the shooter up front, with the caller/spotter positioned to the rear in whispering distance.

Hunters may use artificial lights or other means designed to make coyotes visible at night from December 1 through May 31. Artificial lights cannot be connected to or cast from a mechanized vehicle.

On public lands after daylight hours, a person shall not use any equipment other than a bow, crossbow, or shotgun loaded with a multiple-projectile shell.

On private lands from December 1 through March 31 hunters may also use a rifle of 6.5mm (.264 caliber) or smaller bullet diameter, a muzzleloader of .54 caliber or less, or a shotgun shell with a single-projectile.

For complete regulations on coyote hunting consult the Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Coyote hunters must possess a valid hunting license or be license-exempt, and must have the landowner’s permission to hunt on private property.

Hunting Coyotes with Rifles

With quality optics and high-performance ammunition, a bolt-action, small caliber rifle is ideal for taking coyotes out to 300 yards, with only minimal hide damage.

Centefire Rifle for coyote hunting (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Three popular centerfire rifle cartridges are the .223, .22-250 and .243.

Choose a factory load or hand load your own ammunition with a lightweight, ballistic tip bullet, and fast muzzle velocity for a flat trajectory. Rifles should be equipped with a bipod for shooting from the prone or sitting position.

The ideal setup is to position the shooter on a rise, with a backdrop of brush or woodlands, facing an open field, with forests or wooded draws in the distance. Face into the wind, so that the shooter and caller/spotter can’t be winded by the approaching coyote.

Hunting Coyotes with Shotguns

Shotguns might be the best option in heavy cover, or in fields near woodlands. Remember that camouflage clothing is a necessity, as coyotes have incredible vision.

To be effective on coyotes, a shotgun must be able to deliver tight patterns of large pellets at distances of 70 yards. In Kentucky, lead, copper-plated shot and non-toxic shot of all sizes may be used, including buckshot.

It’s very important to pattern your shotgun. Know your gun’s effective range. A 10 to 15-inch pattern is ideal for coyotes and that means you’ll need to use an extra full or super full choke tube.

On a 12-gauge shotgun an extra full choke measures .680 to .690 and super full choke measures about .665, but diameters may vary by brand of choke tube.

Shot size T is recommended for coyotes.

Don’t overlook this predator-hunting opportunity. Keep in mind that coyotes prey on wild turkey poults, deer fawns and other game species. Get after these bad “dogs.”

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